Horse pins his ears but doesn't bite... - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 06-11-2014, 07:37 PM Thread Starter
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Horse pins his ears but doesn't bite...

Whenever I approach him in the paddock when he's grazing or just standing around, Luca pins his ears. He doesn't bite or even display any other aggressive behaviour, he just puts his ears back. When I have a halter with me or if I call him, he'll come over with his ears forward. When he pins his ears is he just telling me that he's busy grazing/resting? Should I leave him alone or should I correct him somehow? When I come over to him and he pins his ears, I usually talk to him in a stern voice until he somewhat relaxes and once I start patting/stroking him or talking to him, he'll stop pinning his ears.

His groundwork is great, he's an angel under saddle and he has awesome manners when he's in a halter. It's just that time when I approach him without anything in my hands. Might he be thinking that since I'm not carrying anything, I just want to pat him/mess with him and he's too busy eating or resting and doesn't want to waste his time? He's not particularly fond of unwanted affection, he only gives in to cuddles/pats when he feels like it, and that's fine with me. A good scratching behind his ears is always welcome, and that's better than nothing, right? ;P

Luca is worse with other people, he likes to give them the most evil glares he can muster, but he's all bark and no bite. He used to charge and nip but those days are over, all he does now is pin his ears. He also pins his ears at random occasions such as a person climbing a fence, another horse coming too close to him, a smaller animal pestering him, etc, but he just glares and pins his ears and that's it.

Also, I only give him his food/treats if he "gives me ears". If he refuses to put his ears forward I tell him "back" and he'll back up, still pinning his ears but doing what I asked him to do. When I tell him to give me ears after that, he'll do it and I give him his food. this just Luca's personality or is he being disrespectful?
I've heard of some horses that pin their ears at everyone but never bite/kick/charge and are lovely on the ground and under saddle.

Any opinions?

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post #2 of 13 Old 06-11-2014, 07:48 PM
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He's being disrespectful whenever he pins his ears. Think about a horse herd, the dominant horse will pin their ears at another horse and the other horse is expected to move. Though it appears from your description he has gotten better, he still doesn't totally respect you. He is challenging you still, just more subtly. If it were me I would take a whip with me out into the field, and when he pinned his ears, make him get move his feet faster than he can blink. Let him know that you control his feet, not he controls yours. This is key with horses, the dominant horse controls the submissive horse's feet. That is how they determine who is the dominant one.

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post #3 of 13 Old 06-11-2014, 08:09 PM
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I agree with SullysRider for the most part, but I do disagree that you necessarily need to do something about it.

He is "testing" you, imo, when he does that but the key, I think, is to just keep doing whatever you were doing - like a dominant horse would.
Subordinate horses will pin their ears at their superiors while out in the pasture, but a truly dominant horse tends to not be threatened by that. The dominant horse will generally make the subordinate move [or whatever his/her initial plan was] and carry on with their day.

Don't back off when he pins his ears, don't feed him when he pins his ears, etc. Pretend like his ears aren't even a factor - a dominant horse wouldn't care, so you shouldn't either.
Of course, if he starts backing up that ear pinning with swinging his rear around or biting - GET AFTER HIM HARD!!
It sounds like you've got it under control and it sounds like he's getting better, so good job!

Of course, you can get after him if you want.
I just don't [my guy is similar - ear pinning about everyyyything] because I see his ears as a conversation - he's telling me he feels protective of his space, I'm telling him I OWN his space, etc. If he didn't "talk" with his ears, I would have no idea that he felt protective of his space or whatever.

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post #4 of 13 Old 06-11-2014, 08:17 PM
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If he really isn't doing anything other than pinning his ears, I'd do as Wallaby says and just let it be.

I don't let my horse pin his ears, but he's very much the kind that you give an inch, he'll take a mile, much more so than any other horse I've worked with. When I first got him I didn't reprimand him for pinning his ears at other horses and dogs, and it quickly escalated into him going after them (mostly at the dogs, but once or twice after horses that were being led by). Now he gets away with absolutely nothing, because if he does, he'll eventually try to take it a step further.

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post #5 of 13 Old 06-11-2014, 08:32 PM
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I react to pinned ears. How much depends on the horse and the situation. At the very least, I will vocally reprimand. That's often enough. If my friend's stud were to ever pin his ears at me, I'd go right after him - big time.
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post #6 of 13 Old 06-11-2014, 08:38 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks all of you for your input.

I'm normally not very bothered when Luca pins his ears (he does it in the pasture all the time, at horses, goats and large birds. He never tries to hurt them, though.)

He hasn't nipped in months and the last time he did it (he didn't even nip, he just snapped his teeth at my sister) I sharply told him "NO" and he immediately cleared off.

He gets quite food aggressive but as long as I act confidently around him, he behaves.

Oh, he used to be so difficult. We fought for dominance and I lost, being way too "kind" to him and not correcting him properly. He charged at me and bit me and threatened to kick. Ugh, it was all my fault. But he's great now, and he's always had that little habit, even before I got him
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post #7 of 13 Old 06-11-2014, 09:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Dreamcatcher5 View Post
He also pins his ears at random occasions such as a person climbing a fence, another horse coming too close to him, a smaller animal pestering him, etc, but he just glares and pins his ears and that's it.
I wouldn't call these random occasions. There's a pattern here. He's seems to me to be pinning his ears in response to intrusion into his space by things he may see as a nuisance/possibly threatening.
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post #8 of 13 Old 06-12-2014, 12:40 AM
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I agree with Wallaby, to a point. if you are just walking by, with your intention very obviously focussed somewhere else, and the horse pins his ears at your passing, but does not act aggressively in any way, I might walk by and ignore it, as I am not requiring anything from the horse at all. but, if I am in ANY way dealing with that horse, such as walking up to him , not another her, HIM, trying to catch, lead or saddle him, I would NOT tolerate that for a sec.

you see, as my trainer told me, it's not just that he is expressing defensiveness or aggressiveness toward you, which is not acceptable or safe, it's that he has a very negative frame of mind. And if you do nothing, you LEAVE him in that negative space, and he does not have to be there. you aren't doing a single thing to hurt him. So, you should "help" him to leave that ugly mental space. I don't mean "beg" him by being nice, or lure him out with treats, but rather give do something that interrrupts that thought strong enough that the horse literally forgets he was being pissy, becuase YOU have suddenly become the focus of his thoughts, and not in a negative way, but more in a curious way.

for example, my friend's hosre is very girthy. snappy ears, gnashing teeth, lowered and defensive head. this is from his anticipation of pain, from year of wearing an ill fitting saddle. the current saddle is an excellent fit. he does not have a sore back, as you can palpate him fine. But, his mental state becomes defensive and ugly by habit. my teacher would take the line and give it a good hard shake. the horse might throw up his head, and look off to the side. that's not enough. she might give the line another shake, or ust a wiggle, whatever it takes till that horse has to look down the line at her with a "what? oh, you are there, and what would you like?" sort of expression. it's like the whole feeling of "I gotta pin my ears" is GONE from his face.
it looks like she is punishing him, but she stays in there until he gives up that ugly state of mind. THIS is what is important. the horse will be happier when he is not left in this same old nappy attitude every time he interacts with this human. and that is another reason to disallow that behavior.
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post #9 of 13 Old 06-12-2014, 08:08 AM
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I don't put up with any attitude, period.

At very least will tell horse to knock it off, depending on response from that point, will either step in and move horse, or clap hands and make them back up.

If it continues past that? I take lunge whip and really make them move.

Don't put up with it at all, saves trouble down the road.

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post #10 of 13 Old 06-12-2014, 08:39 AM
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Food aggression in the field, where you can move away.. sure.

In a stall? No.

You need to work on respect with him now before he tries more. Give him an inch, he'll take a mile.
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